9 januari 2020 Production 6 min

Do I need a permit for my event?

Andy Greenwood

When it comes to organising an event there are often less exciting things to be dealt with. You would probably rather spend your time shaping your event and booking your favourite artists. Alas, it’s not always a cakewalk out there. To guarantee your event will run smoothly, you’ll need to check if you need to request a permit. Organising an event without a permit can lead to serious legal repercussions. But when do you need a permit or not? How long does it take to request one?

Do I need a permit?

It’s important that you check whether or not you actually need a permit in the first place. Sometimes simply informing the municipality about your event is enough, given that it’s a small event. The rules for this vary per municipality; some places make you request a permit for anything over 250 visitors, whereas others do so after 100. It also depends on whether or not you plan on having live music or blocking off streets. The municipal laws differ so much from one to the next that it would be impossible to even give you a rule of thumb. To that end, it’s always important to check the local municipality’s website for any correct and current information on permits.

Problems when requesting a permit

There are all sorts of things that can go wrong when it comes to requesting a permit. To help avoid problems it’s wise to get a timely start when it comes to gathering information about the regulations in your municipality. The quicker you know if you need a permit, the sooner you can start requesting one.

It can take quite some time before you get a permit. Once the request is submitted, it can take a couple of months for the permit to be issued by the municipality. This process could be delayed even further if the municipality decides to make a risk assessment or potentially take other measures. In the worst-case scenario, you may not even receive your permit and you’ll have to submit a new request.

It would be a nightmare if there were no time left to make the necessary changes to your event, submit a new request and still get your event up and running. That’s exactly what happened the first events being held in the Koelhuis in Eindhoven (link in Dutch). The organisers had already sold 2000 tickets for an event that had to be cancelled and had to move another party - that had also sold 2000 tickets - to a different location.

The permit in question here was a catering permit, but the principle remains the same: The sooner you request your permit, the more breathing room you have when things don’t go according to plan. You can always ask the municipality how long the permit process will take, but in our experience, it’s better to play it safe and assume the worst. This can help you avoid loads of unnecessary stress in the days leading up to the event - a period in which organisers are usually busy enough as it stands.

It’s possible that you may need additional permits alongside the event permit. As such, there’s an environmental permit (which includes noise pollution), an exemption for serving alcohol and an extra exemption for selling for hard liquor. Even your caterers need to have particular permits to be allowed to work at your event, so make sure they have their administration in order.

Don’t forget to keep the possible costs of requesting a permit in mind. An exemption for the sale of alcoholic beverages in Amsterdam in 2020 will cost you €280,-. Add to that another €280,- if you want an exemption to sell hard liquor. In Amsterdam, you’re charged a fee of €980,- for events with less than 500 visitors, and for a crowd of up to 2000 visitors you pay €1.960,-. These costs can ramp up very quickly if you aren’t prepared, so make sure you have a good financial overview to keep track of everything with.

What do I need to request a permit?

This differs per municipality but in general, you can make a couple of assumptions. The first thing is that you’ll need to provide some general information about the event; the dates, times, location, how many visitors you’re expecting etc. Furthermore, it’s usually expected that you can provide a map of the event site and that there is an emergency plan. The map doesn’t have to be a masterpiece drawn in AutoCAD, but a simple and clear drawing will usually suffice - I’ve seen ones done in paint! Keep in mind though, the larger and more professional your event, the higher the municipalities expectations will be.

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Andy Greenwood

Content Marketeer

Once took a peek behind the scenes at events and never wanted to leave again. Has a serious passion for music and plays guitar in his band.